Special Adviser to P.M. on Youth Affairs urges opposition to stop politicizing volunteer force initiated to help curb spread of COVID-19
The Government of Pakistan has not made any funding or authority available to members of the Corona Relief Tiger Force, Special Adviser to the P.M. on Youth Affairs Usman Dar said on Monday, as he slammed the opposition for politicizing the volunteer force and its efforts to aid in curbing the spread of COVID-19.
“The members of the Corona Relief Tiger Force will serve as facilitators,” he told a media briefing ahead of a formal launch of the Force’s activities. Prime Minister Imran Khan will personally address the volunteers today and guide them on how best to perform their duties, he added.
The Sindh government, as well as the administrations of Pakistan-administered Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan, has said they would not avail the services of the Tiger Force, accusing it of being a political tool for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf. Dar assured the 155,332 volunteers from Sindh that they would not be ignored, adding that the government would announce how their services would be availed within this week.
“Prime Minister Imran Khan will not let your passion be dismissed,” he said, adding that within this week, the government would issue the responsibilities of the Corona Relief Tiger Force at the tehsil, district and union council levels.
Dar said the government had set up a separate communications server for the Tiger Force volunteers. “All volunteers would be sent an electronic ID via QR code through the Citizen Portal app,” he said, adding that responsibilities for each volunteer would be issued by district administrators via the portal.
“We are confident the volunteers would fulfill their designated duties with full vigor and enthusiasm,” he said.
To a question on lawmakers not being consulted on the activities of the Force, as alleged by opposition parties, Dar urged all detractors to read the Terms of Reference for the Corona Relief Tiger Force before dismissing it. “I will try to send it to the opposition in Urdu [so they can understand it better],” he said, adding that the committees tasked with utilizing the Force included relevant parliamentarians, including elected lawmakers from all political parties.
Referring to Sialkot, which undertook a pilot phase of the Corona Relief Tiger Force, Dar said the local administration had written to elected lawmaker Khawaja Asif of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) to ask him where their activities should be directed. “Khawaja Sb. has not responded in the past 5 days,” he said.
Dar said deputy commissioners would coordinate with all elected lawmakers, regardless of political affiliation. “I am astonished that Sindh, despite having a PPP-led government and a majority of lawmakers from that party, is politicizing the Tiger Force,” he said, claiming the services of the volunteer force in the province would be entirely under the control of the incumbent government.
“The opposition is denying the nationalistic fervor with which the Tiger Force participants have volunteered to help the country overcome the COVID-19 pandemic,” he said. “The entire world is scared of coronavirus, but these 1 million brave individuals are coming out to the streets to serve the nation,” he said, incorrectly, as the government’s own figures show that the total number of volunteers for the Force are 993,479.
Meanwhile, in a worrying development, the personal information of thousands of Corona Relief Tiger Force volunteers from across Punjab has allegedly leaked on social media. The documents include the CNIC, contact details, age and profession of all volunteers, and have raised questions over the government’s commitment to the privacy of the volunteer force.
Among the files being shared is a signed order purportedly issued by the Pasrur assistant commissioner, detailing the private information of Tiger Force members and ordering for their services to be utilized in managing Utility Stores in the region. There has, thus far, been no confirmation from the government that this information is accurate or is an instance of “fake news.”